"Miss Prumia, have you seen Princess Louise pass by here by any chance?" a youth wearing a white uniform exuding a princely aura walked up to the maid. Blond hair, sharp facial features and a handsome overall outlook.
"Princess Louise? I haven't seen her since this morning," Prumia said in a sincere voice, "Perhaps the princess in her room? She had been working on something late till the night. The princess Louise looked rather sleepy the last time I saw her."
"I see. Thank you for the information," the youth bowed lightly.
"Prince Romeo. You know that it's alright to act a little less reserve around me correct?"maids were maids, royals were royal. Each of them had their respective roles and statuses. Under normal circumstances, the maid would carry out given orders like robots without any friendly contact. The intimacy between the two niches didn't really fit. This was however, an exception to Romeo.
Romeo, unlike his father, King Sartus, didn't not treat the maids as mere workers. He respected them. Miss Prumia was one of the maids that had taken care of him since he was a young child. As such, he felt that they should also be treated as part of the family. Without them, who knew what would have become of the chores.
Romeo smiled wryly as to reply.
Walking pass the open air path, Romeo looked pass the castle pillars, into the garden in the courtyard. The various varieties of pink and red roses coupled together with the scent of the white lilies aromatizing the air. The sun was peaking, mid-day meal was about to start.
Romeo had been called on by his father to escort the princess to the dining hall. Whatever the reason, he felt that it wasn't such a troublesome matter, although such things were supposed to be a maid's. He thought perhaps his father had plans for the two.
Romeo wasn't a fool. He could guess the reason why he wanted him to personally find and bring Louise around the castle the day before. Unfortunately, before he could do that, she went missing.
Up the sparkling quartz-marble stairs, he stopped at a particular painting hugging the wall. It was one he painted himself. It portrayed a woman who wore a red gown, shoulders exposed with her cleavage exposed and twin hills about to spill over. A fetish? Perhaps, he made that portrait years ago, during his naive years. He was no longer the person he was back then, fantasizing about beautiful woman and their seductive body was something he left in the past.
He then remembered walking up this exact stairs yesterday, half-way he halted at her voice—Louise's voice. She had used such a gaily sweet tone to say something shockingly vagrant about this painting he made.
"This painter must be a pervert"— was what Romeo remembered hearing. It made him laugh. Just what kind of etiquette did this princess practice? She was straight forward, candid, accurately depicting his past as if the day he painted it.
Past the stairs, he walked down a red-carpeted hallway. The walls painted in a creamy white colour with broderie patterns carved into the wall. Splendid flowers blossomed together with swiveling vines underneath the diamond leaves. The patterns repeated every few meters that seemingly fuse into an infinite array.
He then stopped at a gloss dark cedar door. It was one of the guest rooms—the one that belonged to Louise. Although it wasn't the main focus of the castle, the door down to the golden handle were meticulously crafted with spiral patterns that would mesmerize anyone.
Romeo sized up the door, then looked around to check for any human presences. The maids or knights that would usual roam the halls were not here. This had to not be a coincidence.
Two gentle knocks were given to the door.
The non-existed crickets made their chants. An imaginary crow cawed over his head.
Romeo made it a tad louder. But again, no reply.
Romeo was aloof as to what he should do next.
'Was she in her room? If so, why is she not responding? Do I have to go in?'
He was hesitant. At the same time, he had already searched everywhere else. This was the last and only location she could possibly be in.
"Princess, I'm coming in," Romeo pushed the handle down to find that it wasn't locked. Maybe she wasn't in her room after all. In any case, he entered gingerly.
The room was lit by the bleach white sunlight, light rays filtered through the tall glass windows. The spacious room smelled like the perfume she wore, a sweet mellow rose. The ceiling with the artistic sculptures of various saints, gods and astronomical elements. A large intricate chandelier dangled from above, created from many nuggets of shiny white crystals.
The red carpet remained, but doused with a different pattern.
The room was clean, organized without the staleness offered by days of neglect. It only took the princess one day to transform it into an entirely different atmosphere.
The long wooden desk was stacked high with books, properly organized just like the one on the desk of the secretary's office. An ink bottle and quill placed at the edge of the table. The quill's tip had been dyed with a blackish blue ink, still glossy and thick under the light.
Romeo walked over in surprise. The stack was enormous, with a thickness of at least 5 bulky books. He looked at the very top of the stack being held down by a small, but weighty book. Curious, he lifted the book to look underneath—at the first page of the stack.
'Just what contents of this amount did she write?'
He stared that the paper in front of him in disbelief. Incredible. Now, Romeo was questioning his identity as a royal.
"Brother Herlock! You better stop complaining! I've finished it, no more NO MORE!"
Romeo took a few seconds to digest what he was seeing. This princess had such an intimate relationship with his brother, even to the point of throwing out etiquette in conversing.
It looked like she wrote it in a rush, however, at the same time, it possessed an artistic quality to it. The curved letters and parts with ink sprinkled blotches created a beautiful composition on the page. Splendid and beautiful.
Romeo shook his head. Perhaps he was thinking too much. He didn't try take another look at the stack and placed the cover book back on top.
The sound of ruffling bed sheets caught his ear. At the corner of his eyes, he saw something move underneath the posh blanket of the bed, one with a speckless white mattress that lined with silver silk. He wasn't able to clearly discern what it was, because of the veil that surrounded the bed. No, he knew exactly what it was, or more concisely, who it was—
He gulped down his saliva. He had trespassed forbidden territory hadn't he?
He wasn't seeing wrong, the person wrapped under the blanket made slight movements again as he stood there.
What was he to do now? The mid-day meal was due soon. He was told to escort her but she was sleeping. Maybe he needed to wake her up? Waking her up was probably it. She had stayed up so late just to complete the work assigned by Prince Herlock, that must be why Miss Prumia said she looked so drowsy.
Romeo approached the bed slowly, scrupling with his mind to find a reason to advance, to take a chance. She was Louise and he was Romeo, just how much more romantic it would be if she was named Juliet— thought unfortunately, that name had already been taken by his younger sister.
He sank down on the bed from his weight. He hadn't glance at her direction once since he made up his mind to awaken her from slumber. His face was a tad red from nervousness, his heart beat quickened as he clutched his first tightly. What was he doing? where did his calm, conservative and reserved demeanor go? He was no longer the pervert she called him wasn't he?
He closed his eyes and steadied his breathing. Exhaling a breath he turned around to look at her— her glossy straight black hair cascading down from her head to her waist line, her beautifully slender body that molded into the bed perfectly. He could see her splendor bodily curves from underneath the blanket.
His eyelids lowered, he regained calmness and a gentle smile enlightened his face, like a husband looking at his wife. He traced his hands along her shiny black hair before reaching out to pinch her cheek, which had quite the elasticity. It felt like a synthetic material? From the brief contact, he could tell that it wasn't the normal warmth given out by natural human heat, it was cold, like the vague chill from a deep dark well.
Unconvinced, he placed the back of his hand above her forehead. Cold— no warmth at all. Romeo suddenly felt a chill sweep by.
"Louise.." he shuddered. There wasn't a reply nor any reaction.
"Louise!" He said louder but this time, he reached over to try lift her up into a sitting position.
Pop came her head. Romeo jumped off the bed in fright, his hands still held onto the weird object. One that looked incredibly similar to Louise— her head, but without any features beside the facial groves and hair. Romeo's heart skipped two beats.
'A mannequin! A damn mannequin! This isn't Louise!'
Romeo made a complicated expression while he got up on his feet. Pulling away the blanket that covered the bed, what was underneath wasn't what he expected at all. It was a fake dummy! One that was exaggerated in terms of shape detail! There was even clock attached to it, fixated around a weird mechanisms that was probably the cause to the movements he saw earlier.
Romeo's face contorted then twitched.
He pulled over the dummy to see a note stuck to the belly, similar to the one he saw on her desk.
"Don't worry about my lunch! I'll handle it thank you!!"
After seeing that, he really wanted to bawl in laughter. He coughed and choked his breathing to suppress himself. What a shameless princess!
Exiting the room with a weird smile, he was greeted by the sudden appearance of Miss Prumia. Definitely not a coincidence.
"She's not in?"
Romeo shook his head with a wryly smile. This had to be a setup from his father. However, it turned out that an unexpected surprise left the plan in vain. Part of his smile felt weird, Miss Prumia couldn't help but to wriggle her brow in response.
"She escaped again," Miss Prumia sighed a guess and walked towards the stairs, "I'll go get the knights."
"No need," Romeo's confident statement made Prumia turn her head, "Let her be, she must be happier this way. This is Haital kingdom, the people know it as one of the safest nation in Monarch Empire, I trust in that."